Al Abdulkarim Holding Co., a Chairman’s Circle member of the U.S.-Saudi Business Council (USSBC), is the largest distributor for electrical materials and systems solutions in the Kingdom. The USSBC spoke with Mr. Khalid Al Abdulkarim, CEO of Al Abdulkarim Holding and a USSBC board member, to discuss the company’s regional and global presence, its long-established business partnerships with U.S. companies, and Al Abdulkarim Holding’s advice for American companies looking to enter the Saudi market.
How has Al Abdulkarim’s business evolved to keep pace with the diversification and transformation of Saudi Arabia’s economy under the goals set by Vision 2030?
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 outlines three major goals: a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and to become an ambitious nation. Our group, along with its subsidiaries Naizak Global/ISG/EWI, has been in the forefront of creating local value-added content across the energy supply chain. We have also diversified into non-oil growth areas offering our products/solutions. We have expanded into areas of digital services closely working with the various stake holders. Our Life Sciences Tech division is engaged with the Ministry of Health and research institutes/universities to deliver cutting edge solutions in molecular biology, immunology, and cytogenetics to enhance measurement indicators for overall well-being. We use a broadest level of market segmentation and we are present in all Tier 1, 2, and 3 cities across Saudi Arabia. While we continue to have diversity in our employees, today we are also one of the highest employers of qualified Saudi graduates, both men and women.
Following the launch of Saudi Arabia’s National Industrial Strategy in 2022, what do you think are sectors that U.S. companies should prioritize?
Within Saudi Arabia, U.S. companies should prioritize digitalization, cybersecurity, ICT, infrastructure, smart cities, innovative drilling solutions, industry 4.0, instrumentation and process automation, life sciences, fin–tech, blue hydrogen and carbon capture, renewable energy, and industrial recycling.
How is Al Abdulkarim integrating sustainability solutions across the markets it serves? What is the significance of this position to your company?
On a broader scale as a group, we are actively engaged with U.S. companies as well as other international companies, the Saudi government, and private entities in building a circular economy. We aim to work towards achieving the 17 Sustainable development goals laid out by the United Nations.
On a day-to-day basis, we have implemented tool waste recycling and sophisticated waste disposal in our manufacturing plants. We will soon power our facilities through renewable energy (de-carbonization). Also, our landmark 40-floor AK tower is LEED certified.
Al Abdulkarim offers a large portfolio of diversified products and maintains a wide list of clients. What advice would you give to U.S. suppliers looking to enter the market and what is the process by which they can partner with your holding?
We have a proven track record of forging long-standing business partnerships with several U.S. companies. We hold active memberships in professional societies such as SPE/IEEE/ISA/ASME/NACE/AIChE and also sponsor key conferences and trade events in the region.
To those who wish to enter the Saudi market, our advice would be to look at long-term engagements and eventually add value locally through manufacturing.
Today, Saudi law has effective protection towards IP, so any technology products and solutions that can be built and offered locally in the Kingdom with the participation of our young engineers will be the best way forward.
The cost of Saudi market penetration is high and our group has consistently been ranked as a top-tier supplier to all the major end users. Today, we have a large manufacturing and distribution setup backed by qualified resources. Our knowledge base, network, and capability profile make us an automatic choice for U.S. companies looking for a foray into Saudi markets.
You have partnered with many U.S. companies. In your experience, what sets U.S. companies apart from global competitors?
American companies’ experience in delivering technology products and solutions to oil & gas, petrochemical, and refining industries, coupled with their methodology and tools for effective project management, is what sets them apart from the field.
Can you speak to your regional and global business presence and how that’s evolved?
We are present across all the GCC countries and have strategic offices in the U.S., Europe, and India. Over the years, the rapid diversification of the supply chain and growth of the EPC business in Saudi Arabia has made us realize we need to have a strong regional presence and a strategic global presence.
What are some of your most notable projects in the last few years and your priorities for 2023 and beyond?
- King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) – turnkey laboratory solutions.
- Jafura Utilities Sulfur and Interconnecting Systems Project – analyzer shelters supply contract.
- Tanajib Gas Plant Project – integrated security systems and ICT for critical infrastructure.
- King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) – security systems and ICT for critical infrastructure.
- NEOM – artificial intelligence.
- SABIC Plants – process optimization.
- Dell – servers and disk storage supply contracts for large oil and gas companies.